Invitation to sign open letter to Mennonite Church USA

The Open letter movement is now inviting non-pastors to sign on to their letter as well. Here’s their invitation for all of you from one of the organizers:

I thought some of YAR’s readers might be interested in this: More than 100 Mennonite pastors and people in ministry have signed a letter calling for Mennonite Church USA to extend full welcome to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). The signers invite the church to confess its exclusion of LGBT people and witness to Jesus’ Good News of “radical hospitality and extravagant love.” Everyone who considers themselves part of MC USA is invited to sign the letter, which can be found at www.openlettertomcusa.org.

Thanks -
Sheri Hostetler
Pastor, First Mennonite Church of San Francisco and one of the Open Letter’s authors

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10 Responses to “Invitation to sign open letter to Mennonite Church USA”

  1. SteveK Says:

    Although I agree with the sentiments of the letter, I will not be signing it. This is because, from the beginning of the controversy, all people have wanted to do is to tell MCUSA what to think or believe on the subject, rather than having the different sides of the matter to freely discuss their reasons and to openly listen to the other side.

    I have proposed to MCUSA to have a discussion between two friends on different sides of the issue– William Higgins and Weldon Nisley– who are both pastors and have had open, friendly discussions on the pertinent Bible texts and their applications. For some reason, this suggestion was not accepted. But I firmly believe that a friendly, listening discussion on the subject is necessary before a prophetic call– no matter how necessary the prophetic call is.

    And evangelical professor with anabaptist leanings, Scot McKnight, has written an intelligent, important letter talking about HOW we discuss the issue– and I’d like to see MCUSA adopt this approach before this discussion is continued.

    Read the letter here:
    http://radicaltheologians.blogspot.com/2009/04/third-way-on-homosexuality.html

  2. TimN Says:

    Can you say more about what you mean by a friendly and open conversation? I think a lot of Mennonites have had friendly and open conversations about this issue over the years. Can you say more about how a Nisely/Higgins conversation would be different? How is it that this conversation would meet the requirement for a prophetic call is met?

    Is your requirement that this conversation needs to be publicized in a particular way? Two years ago Cascadia Press published Stumbling Toward a Genuine Conversation on Homosexuality, which included Weldon Nisely and many others.

    Another important question is: who defines when the requirements for a prophetic call has been met? According to “Our Story” on the Open Letter website, This letter came out of a Brethren Mennonite Council conference. They have been working in the Mennonite church for the acceptance of LGBTQ folks for decades. It seems to be they would be in a good position to know when the thresh hold for a prophetic call has been reached.

  3. lukelm Says:

    Hi Steve,

    I think your idea is wonderful - I would LOVE to see that conversation between William Higgins and Weldon Nisley take place in the church. However, I’d like to challenge you a bit on your statement. The option to have an endless conversation on the issue is actually one of pretty extreme privilege. It’s available only to those who are allowed to sit at the table and aren’t in danger of having their chair pulled out from under them if they say the wrong thing (or who are never given a chair to start with.) I agree that a call for true, open, loving, nonjudgemental (on BOTH sides) dialogue is always key, but I would also challenge you to say that

    a) this dialogue has been going on for decades

    and

    b) in the meantime, for those who have eyes to see it, queer kids growing up in the church have very damaging spiritual violence perpetrated upon them. To a lesser extent, queer adults who are part of the church, have been part of the church, or want to be part of the church are also the focus of violence.

    Steve, would you be comfortable with maintaining a status quo for thirty years while we discuss whether the church should relate to poor and homeless people? If it takes a thirty-year conversation to make that change, then it’s something we’d have to do - but I’m not sure you’d be comfortable with putting off prophetic calls for justice in the meantime.

    best,
    Luke

  4. Tim Baer Says:

    No one is interested in discussion. Whomever “loses” will just create a reason or excuse why it happened. We are only interested in others bending to our own will.

    If democracy prevails, you lose.
    If not democracy then appointed authority, you lose.

    The movement for queer equality is tricky. Bear this to heart: For every homosexual the church gains, should the minority prevail, it will create splits for hundreds. Inclusiveness is what is what is being discussed, but the results of your efforts will be division.

    Pray mightily about the unintended consequences of your efforts.

  5. JeremyY Says:

    I think my dear brother Tim is being somewhat overly dramatic. I do think that church unity is important, but it’s not the only important thing. After all, there would never have been a Reformation or Anabaptism if unity was the only thing to worry about.

    If MCUSA accepts LGBT Christians tomorrow, will people leave? Of course. There will always be Christians who will say “no” LGBT inclusion, just as there will always be Christians who will say “no” to women in leadership. But do we decide not to allow women leaders, because somebody might leave our denomination? Of course not.

    I do think that those of us who want our denominations to include LGBT Christians need to be prophetic to the denominational center, while at the same time, extend grace to those who continue to say “no.”

    But I don’t think we can base our acts of conscience and the work of the Holy Spirit just on the fear and anxiety of church division.

  6. Adam Says:

    Tim,
    Is such a fragile unity (one based on exclusion and the primacy of the majority) worth defending? Doesn’t the status quo become something of an idol if we allow our fear of division to prevent us from acting according to the movements of God’s Spirit?
    I can testify that many churches that include GLBT members are vibrant, growing places, blessed with the fruits of the Spirit. I pray that more and more churches will open themselves to that blessing from God. And before that, I simply pray that churches not be impeded in their ministry. Hundreds are already being disciplined, driven out, and silenced. This is no unity.
    Adam

  7. Tim Baer Says:

    Jeremy, you bring up a good point. There would be no reformation with a fear of division. But I think the entire point of the reformation was division. People were tired of one body having all the power. (Yet, I agree with your point whole-heartedly)

    You bring up women in leadership. What good is leadership if the church won’t affirm it? Clearly, some in the church disagree with leadership on LGBT issues. Why have leadership at all if it won’t be respected? And the church largely agrees with leadership on LGBT issues, so the body and leadership have spoken and come to about the best sort of agreement you can get in regards to groups this large: “The church recognizes queer issues as sin.”

    If you disagree then your options are to try to start a grassroots effort and hope for change down the road or start a new denomination. You cannot, nor will, force these opinons on the people of the denomination, no matter how much you wish to (or how right you may be).

    So whether or not LGBT issues are a worthy cause or not (I have yet to make up my mind on the matter), the reality is the letter won’t matter. The people won’t so quickly bend to the wills leadership, and there are not enough people to bend the will of leadership.

    Luke,

    I think “division” of the church is noteworthy when LGBT issues are being discussed as “inclusion”. Doesn’t it make sense to discuss what division will happen to make the church more inclusive?

  8. SteveK Says:

    Sorry I’m so long in responding.

    My basic answer to most of the objections is that I would be looking for a listening conversation with objective mediation. This is a conflict in the church and, for the most part, the church has been ignoring it.

    I know the conversation has been going on for decades– but it is a conversation where neither side is listening to the other.

    What we really ought to do is have the Lombard Peace Center– an excellent Anabaptist resource for resolving conflict– establish a mediation for the church on the subject. Let many points of view be heard, and then let the other side rephrase it, so they can truly said to be listening. Come up with solutions that both sides would find acceptable. There are ways to do this, and everyone knows it. Why haven’t they been tried?

    Another resolution or letter is just another piece of the non-dialogue that has been going on for decades. When will Mennonites learn to use the mediation resources that has been at their disposal for those same decades?

  9. Margaret Umble Says:

    This discussion makes me weep for the denomination in which I grew up. There is no mention of what the BIBLE says on this subject. The Bible is very clear about what God thinks about the sin of using our bodys in unholy ways. It actually says more about the sin of sodomy/homosexuality than it does about murder. A good place to start is to read Romans 1:18 - 32. I beg you, for the sake of your soul, to read this. I pray for the Mennonite church as well as many other denominations today who are teaching and preaching a false gospel.

  10. admin Says:

    Margaret,

    Actually there have been dozens of conversations on this blog in the past 3 years about what the Bible and the church has to say on this subject. Many people who share your perspective have participated in those discussions. If you’re interested in reading what they had to say and how others responded, here are a few places to start:

    If you have additional questions after reading these posts and their comments, feel free to add your voice. Your comments will be sent to the original author of the thread and the post will show up on the right hand side bar under “Recently Commented” so others can respond to your comments as they wish.

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